Karlee Lowery- Perseverance, Bravery, and Becoming a Champion in Life.
How insane is it to flip on 4''? I mean honestly, think about that! Turning completely upside down and trying to land on your feet with only 4'' underneath you. It's a pretty crazy concept. As a coach, the things that I ask these kids to do sometimes truly blows my mind. What blows my mind ever more though, is the idea that at 8 years old they can understand concepts that many times even as adults we can’t fully grasp.
The first time I taught Karlee she was 18 months old. She still had her toddler waddle and her baby fat. She had that baby giggle that was contagious, and wore the smallest leotard GK makes. It's remarkable to see the athlete she has now grown into. Karlee is 8 now, and when I look at her I can’t help but still see that cute little girl in that tiny leo. I also can’t overlook the maturity that has formed in her as an athlete and a young girl.
This season has been a tough one for Karlee. She moved into a new level and is competing skills this year that are significantly harder than what was required to do
last year. She has handled it beautifully, but it hasn’t come without its struggles. Karlee was scared. No, scratch that. Karlee was terrified of her cartwheel on beam this season. We had practice after practice of her coming in and crying because it truly shook her to her core to attempt to do a cartwheel on the beam. We did lead ups. We did drills. We did mental training. We did everything I had in my coach’s tool box to help her get through this hurdle she was facing. Everyday her teammates would cheer and shout positive affirmations and try to reassure her that they believed in her even when she didn't believe in herself. The other gym moms would sit with her mom, Kim and watch and speak positivity to her through her own frustration and heartbreak of seeing her baby struggle. They would get equally excited for every tiny step forward that Karlee would make.
For weeks we all took on practice together knowing the challenge the beam rotation would bring. I should also throw in here that Karlee is the most pitiful cryer you have ever seen! Seeing her in tears broke my heart in a way that I couldn't shake when I went home at night. It was hard. It was hard for me to watch as a coach. It was hard for her mom to watch as a parent but most of all it was hard for Karlee. She is internally motivated and
every time she came in and fought with that fear she would leave frustrated with herself and feel defeated. Now, this could be the end of her story. It has been the end of a lot of athletes story that I’ve taught. She could have quit. Her parents could have let her. That would have been a lot easier. But through this long journey of her battle with fear she never even brought up quitting. It never came up to me and she never mentioned it to her mom and honestly I don't know that it even crossed her mind. That isn't who Karlee is. That’s not how her story ended. Regardless of temporary defeat, tears, frustration, and the emotional roller coaster this brought she just kept showing up. Everyday. She showed up and she fought every day. By the time the first meet rolled around not only was she doing her cartwheels in class and landing them without tears, she also came super close to landing it at the first competition on a different beam, in a different location that was way out of her comfort zone. I cant even explain that feeling as a coach. Seeing a child struggle repeatedly for so long only to come through it with a confidence she never had before and wouldn't have otherwise. She has come so far from that toddler waddle and tiny leotard.
There were a few factors in Karlee's success and while no one can take credit for Karlee finally doing that cartwheel I think the combination of team mates who loved and believed in her, an entire village of moms rooting for her, the foundation of amazing parenting she has received, and her parents and I working together to create a safe place both at home and in the gym for her to work through those emotions all contributed to her accomplishment and ultimately her ability to conquer. Both her parents and I knew the importance of letting her fail and fall so she could learn to get back up and know that she can. That this experience, while hard now, would ultimately give her one more reason to believe in herself every time she ran into fear from this point forward, because let’s be honest, she is gymnast and fear comes with the territory. Learning that hard things are part of the world and that fear is around every corner and knowing how to navigate that will be invaluable to her as an adult. Karlee is one of many kids on my team that are stronger physically and mentally than a lot of adults I know. This is one story out of hundreds that I've seen transpire that prove time and time again that kids are so much more capable than we give them credit for. I hope that as this competition season progresses and you all get wind of her nailing that cartwheel at a competition, you know the journey to get there was hard and you will celebrate the full picture of her success with us. So many people are willing to celebrate the result, but few get to see the journey to get there. Don't just celebrate the skill, celebrate her perseverance, her bravery and her becoming a champion in life because after all, the lessons she is learning in the gym are creating who she is going to be as an adult and I have no doubt that is going to be an amazing, strong and very brave woman.
Stay tuned for more features like this one, as I share stories about these amazing athletes and kids in our community.